State jus­tice, 3 ap­pel­late judges seek vot­ers’ nod

None is op­posed; vote sim­ply a re­flec­tion of their per­for­mance.

The Palm Beach Post - - LOCAL - By Jane Mus­grave Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Along with de­cid­ing hotly con­tested gu­ber­na­to­rial, U.S. Se­nate and other po­lit­i­cal races, Palm Beach County vot­ers on Nov. 6 will be asked to weigh the per­for­mance of four ju­di­cial of­fice­hold­ers who have no op­po­si­tion.

As part of a 42-year-old rit­ual, vot­ers will be asked to sim­ply give a thumbs-up or thumb­s­down to Florida Supreme Court Jus­tice Alan Law­son and Judges Bur­ton Con­ner, Jef­frey Kuntz and Ca­role Tay­lor, all ju­rists on the West Palm Beach-based 4th Dis­trict Court of Ap­peal. It hears ap­peals from cir­cuit courts that cover Palm Beach, Broward, St. Lu­cie, Martin, In­dian River and Okee­chobee coun­ties.

The so-called merit re­ten­tion sys­tem was adopted in 1976 to curb grow­ing cor­rup­tion that threat­ened the in­de­pen­dence of the ju­di­ciary.

While cam­paigns were waged in 2010 and 2012 to block sev­eral Supreme Court jus­tices from hold­ing on to their jobs, no op­po­si­tion has sur­faced this year. Since the sys­tem was adopted, no ap­peals court judge in the state has failed to sur­vive a merit re­ten­tion elec­tion.

For Law­son and Kuntz, who were ap­pointed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2016, it will be the first time their names will be be­fore vot­ers. Vet­eran ap­peals judges Bur­ton and Tay­lor have pre­vi­ously been on the bal­lot. In a Florida Bar poll, all were over­whelm­ingly rec­om­mended for re­ten­tion by the roughly 5,200 lawyers who par­tic­i­pated.

All four ju­rists are vy­ing for six-year terms. Be­cause Tay­lor is 66, she would have to step down when she reaches the manda­tory re­tire­ment age

of 70. How­ever, that could change if vot­ers ap­prove Amend­ment 6, which would raise the re­tire­ment age to 75.

Here’s a look at those who face merit re­ten­tion:

FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

■ Alan Law­son Ap­point­ment: De­cem­ber 2016 by Gov. Rick Scott.

Ed­u­ca­tion: Bachelor’s de­gree in parks, recreation and tourism man­age­ment, Clem­son Uni­ver­sity; law de­gree, Florida State Uni­ver­sity.

Ex­pe­ri­ence: Judge, 5th Dis­trict Court of Ap­peal, 2006-16; judge, 9th Cir­cuit Court, 2002-05; as­sis­tant Or­ange County at­tor­ney, 1997-2001; gen­eral coun­sel, Verses Wear (a Chris­tian-themed cloth­ing start-up), 1996; as­so­ciate and part­ner, Steel Hec­tor & Davis, 1987-1995.

Notable: Law­son, 57, snared head­lines and con­ser­va­tive sup­port in 2012 when he was the lone dis­senter in a 5th Dis­trict de­ci­sion that al­lowed a child to have two legally rec­og­nized moth­ers. The de­ci­sion, up­held by the Florida Supreme Court, was akin to elim­i­nat­ing laws “pro­hibit­ing same-sex mar­riage, bigamy, polygamy or adult in­ces­tu­ous re­la­tion­ships,” he wrote. This year, Law­son wrote a ma­jor­ity opin­ion strik­ing down re­stric­tions that have pre­vented bi­o­log­i­cal dads from rear­ing chil­dren if the moth­ers of the chil­dren were mar­ried to some­one else.

4TH DIS­TRICT COURT OF AP­PEAL

■ Bur­ton Con­ner Ap­point­ment: Fe­bru­ary 2011 by Gov. Rick Scott.

Ed­u­ca­tion: Bachelor of arts in his­tory, Duke Uni­ver­sity; law de­gree, Uni­ver­sity of Florida.

Ex­pe­ri­ence: Judge, 19th Ju­di­cial Cir­cuit, 1997-2011; part­ner, Con­ner & Hooker, P.A., 1996-97; owner, Bur­ton C. Con­ner, P.A., 198996; judge, Okee­chobee County, 1984-88; as­so­ciate, Con­ley & Con­ley, P.A., 1979-84; as­sis­tant pub­lic de­fender, 19th Ju­di­cial Cir­cuit, 1978-79.

Notable: Con­ner, 65, was ap­pointed to the Okee­chobee County bench by Demo­cratic Gov. Bob Gra­ham, the 19th Cir­cuit bench by Demo­cratic Gov. Lawton Chiles and in­ter­viewed with Repub­li­can Gov. Char­lie Crist for the 4th DCA be­fore be­ing ap­pointed by Gov. Rick Scott, also a Repub­li­can. ■ Jef­frey Kuntz

Ap­point­ment: Novem­ber 2016 by Gov. Rick Scott.

Ed­u­ca­tion: Bachelor of arts, Bos­ton Uni­ver­sity; law de­gree, Suf­folk Uni­ver­sity.

Ex­pe­ri­ence: As­so­ciate and share­holder, GrayRobin­son, P.A., 2006-16.

Notable: Kuntz, 37, is not only the youngest judge on the 12-per­son court, he is also the tallest. He is 6-foot-4 and wears size 14 shoes to sup­port his lofty height, ac­cord­ing to a jour­nal of the ap­pel­late section of the Florida Bar. Be­fore join­ing the court, he blogged about Florida ap­pel­late court de­ci­sions. ■ Ca­role Tay­lor

Ap­point­ment: March 1998 by Gov. Lawton Chiles.

Ed­u­ca­tion: Bachelor of arts in English ed­u­ca­tion and law de­gree, Uni­ver­sity of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Ex­pe­ri­ence: Judge, 17th Ju­di­cial Cir­cuit, 1995-98; Broward County judge, 1991-95; pri­vate prac­tice, Ca­role Yvonne Tay­lor, P.A., 1984-91; pri­vate prac­tice, Sam s, Ward, Newma n, Beck­ham & Elser, P. A . , Mi­ami, 1983-84; as­sis­tant U.S. at­tor­ney, 1982-83; as­sis­tant pub­lic de­fender, 197982; as­so­ciate at­tor­ney, Uni­ver­sity of Florida, 1977-79; staff at­tor­ney, New Hanover (N.C.) Le­gal Ser­vices, 197677; staff at­tor­ney, Le­gal Aid So­ci­ety of Durham County (N.C.), 1974-76.

Notable: Taylo r, 6 6, re­placed Bar­bara Pari­ente when the long­time West Palm Beach at­tor­ney was el­e­vated to the Florida Supreme Court. She be­came the first African- A mer­i­can on the ap­peals court just as she had been the first black woman on Broward County’s cir­cuit bench.

Con­ner

Tay­lor

Kuntz

Law­son

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